SciComm in the Time of COVID-19
In February 2020, we heard the whispers of quarantine as COVID-19 swept though Europe and Asia. By March, it was shouting in our faces, and we could do nothing but shelter in place. Nearly all NYC scientists, used to tinkering and toiling away in the laboratory without hindrance, we suddenly told to shut down their projects and prepare to hunker down for the long run. But what really prepares you for a such a drastic change in your way of life?
Most of us started out in a fog of confusion. Would there be enough food? What is going to happen to our hospitals? How do we protect our friends and family? Once we began to understand what quarantine meant for our individual lives, we began to take stock of what is possible for our work. At RockEDU, we began to realize that our campus programs would need to be canceled, or at the very least, modified for virtual engagement. But how were we to pivot, with little experience running virtual outreach programming, and with essentially no notice? It all felt… complicated.
Enter Elizabeth (Lizzy) Zale and Eva Stevenson. Newly confined to their Queens apartment, these two members of the Weill Cornell Medical Center (WCMC) community knew they wanted to do something to help support our community in NYC and beyond, so they reached out to Jeanne Garbarino, director of RockEDU, and Lizzie Krisch, RockEDU program coordinator, to see what might be possible. Together, they imagined connecting a newly quarantined group of scientists with newly quarantined groups of students and teachers. But how? After surveying the various stakeholders, Lizzy had a moment of clarity: “let’s do a journal club!” And that is how Data for the People was born.
From there the team began to lay the groundwork to create a robust yet accessible strategy for breaking down scientific literature so that non-scientists and non-specialists could learn about the incredible COVID-19 research pouring out of labs from across the globe. Because there were others who already had live streaming experience, we knew we should tap into that expertise. And so Jeanne called, err, slacked, Parmvir Bahia, CEO of Scientists, Inc., who also happened to be thinking about launching a journal club. “Let’s not reinvent wheels. Let’s do this together!” With that, Scientists, Inc. became our partner, and along with Parmvir, both Dani Gordon and Pedro Sampaio joined the D4P team.
From there, ideas for D4P began to mature, our team began to grow, we got ourselves a logo, and began to host events. We don’t know where D4P will take us, but are excited to find out!
Elizabeth Zale, BA (she/her)
Scientific Background: Immunology & Mechanobiology
Favorite Quarantine Activity: Drinking wine and watching Gourmet Makes
Eva Stevenson, BA (she/her)
Scientific Background: Immunology & Community Health
Favorite Quarantine Activity: Listening to Supreme Court oral arguments
RockEDU Science Outreach
Jeanne Garbarino, PhD (she/her)
Scientific Background: Biochemistry & Genetics
Favorite Quarantine Activity: Finding random plants outside that I can grow at home
Elizabeth (Lizzie) Krisch, MA (she/her)
Scientific Background: Animal Behavior & Conservation
Favorite Quarantine Activity: Attempting to befriend the bunny that lives in my yard
Parmvir Bahia, PhD (she/her)
Scientific Background: Neuroscience
Favorite Quarantine Activity: Checking the progress of my pineapple plant
Pedro Sampaio, PhD (he/him)
Scientific Background: Cancer Biology
Favorite Quarantine Activity: Baking banana bread and playing Animal Crossing
Dani Gordon, MPH (she/her)
Scientific Background: Epidemiology & Community Health
Favorite Quarantine Activity: Playing video games (FF7 & CoD Zombies)